Planning is Key

PlansOne of the things that continually throws me for a loop is unexpected things that happen in life. It’s the mundane, unplanned, and necessary things. Unplanned child pickups, work running later, emergencies, these are the things that can screw up your plans for the day. It’s ok to miss a workout here and there, but for me, I need to stay focused. My old track record is a series of events like this; getting sick or injured, being busy at work, or a busy home life. These are things that have traditionally derailed my success in the gym.

Now I’m trying to not allow these type of small setbacks be an excuse for failure. It all goes to where I’m at mentally. I have to realize that life happens, and I need to try to make sure I keep focused, and don’t let these things allow me to create an excuse for failure. So when I’m planning to hit the gym after work, and I have to do some unplanned thing, I’ll often try to go later at night when things have calmed down, or work out at home doing some sort of cardio.

Time isn’t the only thing you have to plan. Planning what you eat is crucially important too. There’s been days where I forget to bring my (calorie planned) lunch to work, and I just assume that I’ll go to Subway, or get some grilled chicken, or a salad. But days get hectic, and before you know it, lunch has passed, and the day is closing. Now I’m hungry, and not thinking clearly. These are the times when I make poor decisions. Decisions based on emotion.

It’s important to plan for these type of things. I usually try to keep some protein bars or other “quick-grab” things to eat. Where I work we have a little vending area that has the ubiquitous selection of chips, frozen pizza, candy, and other unhealthy options. If I don’t have anything to eat at my desk, I’ll go down and try to grab a yogurt, or some fruit – something. I look for a balance of satisfaction, measured calories, and something that’s better than fast food.

Remember, life doesn’t always go as planned, make sure you think about things in a way that you will ultimately be successful. If you have an “all or nothing” mentality (like I tend to) make sure that you approach situations realistically, with a plan, and a mindset that shit happens. Just make the best of what you can.

About a week ago, I had several (3-4) days of weight gain, not a ton, 1/2 a pound here, 1/2 a pound there, but I was wondering if I was going to hit the dreaded “plateau”. I was mentally prepared for this, but it was a bitter thought. I was doing everything right, eating right, exercising, so I was a bit confused. I realized a couple things, I had slacked a little here and there on a handful of cheerios, or a small amount of corn chips. I had almost started slipping back into old habits. I went back to my regimen, and over the next few days started to see the predictable weight loss I had been experiencing. I also realized that some sort of wall is coming, and I don’t know when it is. Several days of no weight loss, or even weight gain, are very normal in this process, just stick to what has been working for you.

If you encounter more than a week or two of a stalled plan, you may have to start changing things up. I don’t think I’m at that point yet, but I feel like I could be getting close. I’m so close to my first goal, a goal I’ve set many times and never achieved. But this time I will achieve it, failure is not an option.

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Going to the Movies

MoviesI went to the movies the other night, and realized how much I used to love sitting there eating popcorn and drinking soda. I don’t even want to figure out how many calories I would eat sitting at a two hour movie, I’m sure it’s mind blowing. I decided that I wanted to snack on something. My girlfriend and I were out at Target, so we hit the candy aisle. I started looking at the $2 bags of candy, for something that would be satisfying, fun to have during a movie, and not insane calorie-wise.

It was downright depressing. Almost all of the bagged candy was about 140 calories (or more) per serving, with 5-10 servings per bag. I knew that if I chose a bag, opened it, and tried to just have a serving, it would be two, then three, then I’d say screw it, and eat the entire bag. I looked at bagged popcorn, it was just as bad. Licorice wasn’t the answer either, the reality of calories and sticking to a budget set in once again.

I was getting bummed out, and then decided to go look at granola bars and fruit leather/snacks, they were lower in calories, and smaller portioned, but still wasn’t what I wanted. I finally ended up with a moderate sized bag of beef jerky, 3 servings at 80 calories each. Yes, I ate it all, and while red meat is not the greatest for you (or the sodium), I think it was better than the 1000+ calorie mistake I was about to make. I also got a bottled water, awesome, no calories, and a total of 240 calories for my movie snack. I left room in my daily calorie budget, it was high protein, and a decent amount of calories in comparison to candy, popcorn, or nachos!

Some other ideas are granola bars, generally 110 – 200 calories per bar, fruit leather (natural) around 80 – 160 calories depending on serving size. If you’re at home, you can air pop popcorn with no butter, and light salt for about 15 calories per cup! You need someone with a decent sized purse to smuggle it into the theater. The best thing to do is go with a plan in mind. If you like to snack during a movie, don’t deprive yourself, just make a better decision than the last minute popcorn/nacho/candy purchase, your scale will thank you, AND you’ll save a TON of money too. I think a medium popcorn and large drink tops $12 here in Portland. You can buy two packs of beef jerky (not the cheapest snack) and two bottled waters for that much!

Losing Weight and Eating Right While Traveling

Airplane landingWhen you’re traveling for work, or vacation, there’s so many difficult things to deal with if you’re trying to eat healthy and lose weight. It’s especially hard when you’re doing it for work because your meals are typically paid for by your company or client; all of a sudden almost anything you want to eat is an option. Often work trips or vacations include more alcohol than you would normally drink on your dime.

While it’s hard, it’s sure not impossible. There’s several things to remember when you’re away from home, and you’re roving from restaurant to restaurant.

Know how your food is prepared – Remember that you’re in control of what your put into your body. When you’re at an eating establishment that you’re unfamiliar with, ask questions. How is the meat prepared? What kind of oil do you use? Is it grilled? You have every right as a consumer to know what you’re eating.

Stay away from fried foods – I’ve found that almost every place I’ve ever eaten on the road usually has fried food. Even when you’re in places like this, there are generally healthier options. Look for grilled foods, look for “lighter fare” portions. So many places are now offering healthier options, sometimes you just have to dig deeper and look.

Ask for calorie/nutrition information – A lot of restaurant chains are starting to publish their calorie information in their menus. Pay attention to this. Sometimes things I’ve thought are healthier, have more calories and fat that a burger and fries! Ask how many calories are in the food that you’re ordering, sometimes it’s just not something printed in the menu, but most places have this information available.

Stick to what you know – If you see places you know, and you’re familiar with healthy options they have, stick to those places! Do what works for you. When you frequent places that you know from home, you’ll be a step ahead, and using this approach can save you time and stress dealing with restaurant staff.

Breakfast – Breakfast is one of my favorite meals. I used to love getting a big plate of eggs, hash browns, toast, and meat. It’s an awful way to start the day, tons of fat and sodium. Try sticking to yogurt, a whole grain cereal, or just some eggs. A lot of the places I’ve stayed in have free continental breakfasts that offer a lot of great options, like yogurt, fruit, and oatmeal.

Lunch – Lunch is one of those meals when you’re traveling that you may be eating with other co-workers, clients, or if you’re on vacation, looking to indulge. One of the things I’ve done when I’ve traveled is found local grocery stores, and bought fresh salad by the pound, a bunch of spinach, some chicken breast, a little egg and balsamic vinegar, it’s a delicious lunch, and you can take it back to where you’re working, or eat it at the store. I love Whole Foods’ readily available foods.

Dinner – Dinner can be perceived as one of the meals that if you’re not paying for it, you should splurge. I say, challenge yourself to spend less, pretend like it’s your money. I try to eat a smaller portion of steak or chicken, maybe a potato and a small salad with the dressing on the side. They KEY with restaurant salads is to make sure to ask of the dressing on the side, and then use as little as possible. One of the things I like about balsamic dressing is that it’s low in fat and calories. Use a ton of it!

Subway sandwiches is a great place to go because they focus on low calorie sandwiches, and they are EVERYWHERE. They’re in just about every major city across the US. They also publish and make readily available all of their calorie and nutrition information. They also have gluten free options available and are very conscious about cross contamination, although they say they can’t guarantee 100% gluten free dining.

Airports can be brutal. Sometimes you have VERY limited choices. That’s why I always carry some good snacks with me. I have almonds, cashews, beef jerky, and other snacks that I can dig into if there are only fast food places available. If you don’t plan ahead, and you’re forced to eat fast food, be sure to stay away from “King” or “Super sizes”, order grilled white meats instead of red meats or fried items. A lot of fast food places now even ofter salads and things like yogurt. Just be aware of the portions and calorie counts of what you’re eating, and make good decisions despite the fact that you might not be eating at your first choice of restaurant.

Just remember, that YOU are ultimately in control of what happens. Everyone slips once in a while, everyone indulges, just make sure that you’re not making that the norm. Don’t let being away from home create an excuse to sabotage the work that you’ve done. When you do decide to stray from your course, remember to get at it strong the next day, and don’t let your faulty step become a habit.

Spicy Chipotle Tomatillo Salsa

I’m not a huge vegetable eater. I don’t like the textures and the chunkiness of them. So when it comes to salsa, I typically like the kind that’s totally blended. I first really discovered that I liked this when I found Chipotle’s spicy red tomatillo salsa. I’ve asked them if I could buy it in larger portions, but they won’t sell it anything but a 2 oz. cup.

So I set out to find what the recipe was, and replicate it as best I could. What I found is that Chipotle is very secretive of their recipe. Everyone online has claimed to have replicated it, but reading the comments and looking at the vast ingredient differences it’s a sea of confusion. After much discovery, I finally found one that sounded right. I am not taking credit for the ingredients, just reviewing the recipe. It’s not quite the same as Chipotle’s, but it’s so darn good. The thing I like best about it, is that it’s ALL vegetables, except for a dash of sugar and salt.

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Here’s the recipe that I used. I made some variations on it, which I’ll discuss. The ingredients I used are:

      • 12 small green tomatillos, husked and washed
      • 4 vine ripe tomatoes
      • 10 cloves of garlic – left in the skin
      • 1 onion – cut into strips
      • 1 can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
      • 4 tablespoons of chopped cilantro
      • a pinch of sugar
      • salt – seasoned to taste

It’s very easy to make this salsa. Start by taking a rimmed baking sheet, line it with aluminum foil, and spray the foil with pam, or lightly rub with olive oil. Turn your oven’s broiler on high, and move the rack about 4″ from the broiler. Put the tomatillos, tomatoes, garlic (in skin), and onion on the baking sheet. Place under the broiler, and roast the veggies turning them often until they start to brown or slightly darken, they will almost fall apart. Remove from the oven, and peel the skin from the garlic. Put all of the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend to the consistency you want. I personally like no chunks. If you want to add more spice, you could add two cans of peppers.

I like it with corn chips (in a measured portion) or on eggs, low calorie crackers, or on salads its good too. But the thing I like is that it taste great, and I don’t feel like I’m choking down veggies. The flavor is sweet, smoky, and the acid from the tomatoes with the flavor of the garlic and heat from the peppers all blends really well. It’s not quite a clone of Chipotle, but I like it enough to keep making it at home!

The finished product!

Kid Dinner Challenge – Second Installment

If you didn’t read my first post about the kid dinner challenge, you can read it here. The general synopsis is cooking for six is hard. Making sure we create meals that are healthy, exciting, and relatively easy to make is not a simple chore for four kids and two adults. This is the second installment in what I’m calling the Kid Dinner Challenge.

The requirements of “kid” prepared dinners are this:

    • A budget of $20 to feed six.
    • They plan, research, and determine what is to be served.
    • The meal has to be healthy, protein, starch, vegetable, fruit. They can include dessert if there is budget. (No macaroni and cheese, with chips)
    • Everyone has to like it.
    • They have to do the shopping (we take them).
    • They have to do the cooking.
    • It has to be Gluten Free.
    • They have to serve the meal.
    • They have to do all of the cleanup.

This week we were served a wonderful meal, better than we make sometimes! It’s a meal that should be eaten in moderation, but is simply ok to have once in a while.

Dinner consisted of: Fresh Broccoli, Fruit Kabobs, Gluten Free Lasagna, and a Layered Jello Dessert. The kids pulled it all off for $19.10. The Lasagna was delicious, gluten free noodles, ground turkey instead of beef, ricotta, mozzarella, monterey jack, and parmesan cheese. While not a meal you’d want to eat every day, in moderation, and watching portions, it was a great change.

Snacking

Snacking is tough when you’re counting calories. When you have way less calories to consume for a day, snacks can cut a huge dent into your overall calorie allotment. I’ve been trying to come up with better snacking ideas, I used to love having chips, cheese, and crackers. I think I’m finding better choices to not feel like I’ve lost those things, and doing a way better job at portion control.

Good stuff, 35 – 50 calories depending on flavor.

Cheese is my number one vise. Love it. When I got my food scale I started to weigh the cheese I would eat, and it was crazy to know how many calories I used to consume. An ounce of cheese is about 110 calories.

I’ve recently discovered “The Laughing Cow” brand of cheeses, low calorie, but good taste. One type of their cheese is sold in round packages like brie, but when you open it, there’s 8 individually wrapped cheese triangles. Depending on the type you get, they are 35 – 50 calories per triangle. They are good to eat right out of the package, or spread on low calorie crackers.

Just 125 calories!

I love carbs, and by no way am I carb-free right now, but I am eating way less of them. Crackers were one of the things I used to really love. But now I’ve found that I can still have them, but there are way lower calorie options available today. My new favorite thing is Wheat Thins flatbread crackers. You get two long strips of them for 60 calories. Compared to other crackers that are way higher in fat and sodium.

String cheese is another favorite of mine. The pre-packaged ones are about 80 calories for a single stick. I like them because you can grab one and just run out the door with it. Being that it’s a measured portion, unlike a block of cheese that you can just keep cutting more and more off of, it keeps you from eating too much.

Fruit is another great snack. Apples have 80 – 130 calories depending on size, and are great because you can easily carry them with you. You can also eat them just about anywhere.

Fiber one makes some good granola style bars that are about 140 calories for a single bar and is a good source of fiber, taste great, and again, are easy to grab one and go. It’s nice to have several options available to keep things from getting borring.

I’m under the opinion (for me) that snacks need to be 150 calories or less. My 1600 calories for the day can get eaten up quick if I’m not careful. ~300 calories for breakfast, ~400-500 for lunch, ~400-500 for dinner, leaves about 300 or so for snacks. Sometimes dinner can even be more than 500. I really like to finish under 1600 if I can. Adding exercise allows me to subtract the burned calories from my food, and I have some days where I have a NET calorie intake of 400 calories. (Total Calories Eaten – Calories Burned Working out = NET daily calories.)

Red meat is not great for you, but in moderation, I think it’s ok. I keep a bag of beef jerky around and just grab a piece or two when I’m hungry. It really fills you up, and the protein is good to have instead of carbohydrates. I of course track and log everything I’m eating, it’s crazy to see how many calories are in things that I used to eat with absolutely no thought about it before.

Quick Breakfast Ideas

Who ever has extra time in the morning? You have to get all the sleep you need/want, some of us have kids to get ready for school, you have to get ready for work, and sometimes there’s no time for breakfast. Picking up fast food is a horrible idea. I’m always on the lookout for things that pack a good calorie count, are easy to run out the door with, and are relatively inexpensive and easy to make.

One of the things that my girlfriend and I make are Frittatas. It’s basically some scrambled eggs with a (small) bit of cheese, and some sort of low calorie meat. I’ve used turkey bacon, turkey sausage, and ham, they all taste great. We make them on a Sunday, so we have them for the entire week.

Frittatas!

Here’s what you need:

  • Oven Preheated to 375 degrees.
  • Muffin Pan
  • 8 Large Eggs
  • Grated Cheese
  • Meat of some kind
  • Milk
  • Pepper/Seasonings

Cook the turkey bacon, or turkey sausage. Crack all of the eggs into a bowl, add 1/2 cup of milk, seasonings, and mix thoroughly. In the muffin pan add a small amount of meat to each muffin cavity. Pour the egg mixture into each muffin cavity in the pan, to about 7/8 of filling each hole. Add a pinch of grated cheese to each mixture in the pan. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes. The eggs will rise up above the pan, but will calm down once they’re fully cooked and cooling. Once cool, remove from the muffin pan and refrigerate.

Browning turkey sausage

Mixing up the eggs.

Getting ready for the oven.

Some rough calorie calculations – 8 eggs @ 70 calories per egg = 560 calories, 8 pieces of turkey bacon (or turkey sausage in the pictures) = 200 calories, 3/4 cup of Parmesan / Ramano blend = 150 calories, 1/2 cup of skim milk = 40 calories. 560 + 200 + 150 + 40 = 950 calories for all the ingredients. Most muffin pans make 12 muffins 950 / 12 = 80 calories. I usually eat two of these and am satisfied for breakfast. I figure 160 – 200 calories for two of them, add a little fruit and you’re on your way to starting a great day. The snowman muffin pan above equals about two of the ‘regular’ sized muffins. I eat one snowman, or two of the smaller muffin sized ones! I’m no gourmet chef, and haven’t invested a lot in bakeware. 🙂

You can leave them in the fridge for up to a week, each morning I’ll grab a couple and heat them up at work. It’s a great high protein breakfast.

Another thing that I found at Costco was Jimmy Dean turkey sausage sandwiches. They consist of an english muffin, an egg white, single small slice of cheese and a turkey sausage patty. It’s a 260 calorie breakfast, and it’s great because it takes about a minute and a half in the microwave, and is easy to just grab out of the freezer. While it’s frozen processed food, it’s low calorie and satisfying. I think it’s healthy compared to fast food, because it’s low fat, no egg yolk, and turkey sausage. It’s great when you’re in a rush.

Costco also sells a double box of 12 protein bars for about $20, you get 24 bars total, and they range in calorie count from 270 – 290 depending on flavor. The great part of them is they have 30 grams of protein, and really fill you up. They actually taste good too, I like all three flavors, double chocolate crunch, chocolate peanut butter, and yogurt peanut butter. I keep them in a desk drawer at work in case I forget breakfast, or can’t get away for lunch.